Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. And as with all uniquely American holidays, it’s not without its controversies. Regardless, it’s a day where we pause to gather around a table with friends and family while giving thanks for the blessings that we have received. It’s also a day that fascinates Italians. Any time you bring a feast into the equation, the Italians are all in. So it came to be that our Italian friends wanted to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, partly to make us feel at home and party out of curiosity.
We had our Italian Thanksgiving dinner this past Sunday because Steve was going back to Atlanta for Thanksgiving (and college football) and left on Wednesday. So Sunday it was and even though that wasn’t the traditional day, it was a true Thanksgiving dinner Italian style.
Our friends Anna and Livio hosted and the guest list was 12 adults and their two adorable children. And because this event was hosted by the president of Busatti, a fine Italian textile maker, we all had custom made turkey bibs to wear for the feast. We were the only Americans and were peppered with questions all night about Thanksgiving. And the food. They wanted traditional dishes, so a local restaurant prepared the biggest turkey I’ve ever seen with chestnut stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin risotto. I filled it out with sweet potatoes, green beans, gravy, spiced pecans, chocolate chip cookies and pecan pie. I knew the sweet potatoes would be a new taste for the Italians and they were very curious about this strange, sweet, side dish. They politely ate it, but I’m not sure they were crazy about it. I explained that it’s a traditional dish from the American south and that we only have it once, maybe twice a year. Yes, it’s sweet, and could probably be served for dessert, but it’s a mainstay on our menus. My favorite way to make it is with the crunchy brown sugar and pecan topping, which adds to the sweetness, but also gives you the contrast with the pecans. I told them that the alternative to that was toasted marshmallows and they all agreed that this was better. The pecan pie was well-received, but probably a little sweet for their tastes. The spiced pecans were a big hit, as were the chocolate chip cookies. How can you go wrong with those?
Everyone left the table as stuffed as the big turkey and I told them that’s exactly how they’re supposed to feel. The only thing missing was the constant drone of the TV with a cavalcade of football games cycling through. That’s something I didn’t miss at all.
Thanksgiving. It is my all-time favorite holiday. There are no gifts to buy, there’s nothing religious or patriotic about it, there’s a wonderful meal, and you get a nice long weekend. As I grow older, I also appreciate the time to stop and think about what is truly important in my life. Thanksgiving has come to be a time of reflection for me on where I’ve been and where I’m going. Of what I have been given and what makes me happy. Of what I have and what I need. This is a big one for me this year. Having divested myself of most everything I’ve accumulated over the years, I have thought a great deal about what things mean to me. While I do miss certain things, objects, that brought me joy, I feel a lightness and clarity that I’ve never felt before.
This year is a special Thanksgiving for me because for the first time in my life I am completely alone. Steve left yesterday for Atlanta where he’ll take his place at the table of his family. With everything stripped away, there is only one thing to do – give thanks. Today is a day like any other where I live. There are no parades, no feasts, no football games, no planning for the Black Friday sales. There’s no travel to other tables, no friends stopping by, no menu planning. It’s just Thursday. I will mark Thanksgiving with my own kind of celebration, snuggling with my dog and missing my friends and family. I will give thanks today for the incredible opportunity I’ve been given to live a life outside my own. I will give thanks for each of my friends and the unique gifts they give me, even across the miles of ocean that separate us. I will give thanks for each of my family members, old and new, and the support and unconditional love they have shown me my entire life. I will give thanks that that family includes people related to me by blood or marriage, but always by love. And I will be at peace.